The “Restoration” of a house seems to suggest that it would be a straightforward process, but this is a family house, and the author Alice May with her trademark humour, gentle angst and perceptive insights gives far more detail about what really happens. The author has introduced the Barbarians (her children), the Beloved Husband and herself in the gently humourous “Accidental Damage”, being the first part of “The House That Sat Down” trilogy, and suggests that much of this second book depends on having read that account. Basically, the family house was partially of three hundred year old “cob” construction, and repeated storms have taken its toll on the walls meaning that two huge cracks had developed and rendered that part of the house too dangerous to enter, let alone live in. The family’s trials and tribulations go further than having to sleep in a tent however; the risk of a long term exclusion from the house means that the children may have to be sent away indefinitely. This book goes on from the low point to at least a partial solution as some of the walls are to be rebuilt, but even the start of the process seems fated as unexpected visitors to the house threaten to block the road. It describes the highs and lows of the process of rebuilding, and the challenges that it presents to the writer. A book of highs and lows, humour and hope, I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
This book, like the first, runs in two time sequences. The present day is full of the changes familiar to many, the coming to terms with children growing up and leaving home for university. It can be a challenging time, and in this author thinks back to another difficult time as the builders eventually begin to demolish two walls of the house. This reveals far more than an empty space; the revelation of bedrooms quickly abandoned and possessions displayed subdues even the most boisterous of boys. The unexpected expenses of the project drops a bombshell on the family, and the narrator feels it particularly as she is concerned for the long term future of the family. There are still lighthearted moments, as Thor wields his hammer of destruction and Skelly is displayed, and an exercise class timetable confuses attempts to get fit. The decline of the author’s health and the development of her paintings make for a well balanced narrative.
This book is a worthy continuation of the first book, continuing the themes of family unity in the face of adversity and the basic problems of losing part of a house. The fact that it is a varied and nuanced story with great wit and charm makes it a very readable account. The pictures and paintings that the author describes punctuate the narration and give a fascinating insight into her state of mind. This is a memorable series of books which have a gentle humour which carries the writing through into a rather special account of a family’s experience.